Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Sucked. . . Or Did It? . . .

I'm not a big fan of the word, but I think it might be appropriate here. Over the years it's morphed into a slang term meaning things like "stinks," "lousy," "repellent," and "disgusting." When I was recovering from my bike accident I had more than one person request a description of what happened, which they then chose to respond to emphatically with "that sucks!" Most of those people were under the age of 40. Ah, the times!

So I've had the privilege and gift of living 54 years on earth. A very small portion of those years - if I'm counting I'd have to say a total of four - have had days and weeks that flavored the entire year with difficulty, leaving me to say that the year could have been better. And relatively speaking as compared to the rest of my life, the stuff that was part of this year made this one of the worst. The sense of trouble that coursed through my mind and body the moment I looked down to see my front wheel stuck in that railroad track. . . well. . . I had a feeling things were going to be different for me for at least a couple of days! That - and then some - was very quickly confirmed. So, based purely on the relative nature of this year to the other years of my life, I guess you could say -according to commonly held standards - that it sucked.

But I have to be honest. . . it's really been anything but bad. Sure, it hurt worse than any other year I've experienced. But just like the pain and beauty of childbirth that none of us men know or understand but our mother-friends do, there's great joy that follows great suffering and difficulty. On the night before He died the most excruciating death a human could die, Jesus told His disciples, "In this world you will have trouble." Then, he went on to say, "BUT, take heart! I have overcome the world." The Scriptures and too many of to count offer testimony to the fact that God brings great good out of those things we know to be bad. Sadly, many are bent on blaming God as cause rather than seeing God as the one who redeems. I love how Joseph explains that kind of perspective as he addresses his brothers who more or less threw him under the bus. . . or into the well and years of slavery: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good. . . " Yes, the Lord delivers and saves.

A man named Clark came to visit me in the hospital. A few years before, Clark had fallen out of tree and broken his neck. It's been a long road back. But what impressed me about the things Clark told me was that he never really focused on the fall out of the tree, the pain he experienced, or the heartache of his long and difficult road back to health. Rather, he talked about his life "BT" and his life "AT." "Before Tree," he described his faith in ways that were somewhat mechanistic. "After Tree," his faith came to life and the Scriptures were so much more real. He's very grateful for his "AT" life. . . which means he's grateful for the "T." Before leaving my room, Clark told me that my life would now be divided into two parts, "Before Bike" (BB) and "After Bike" (AB). It's true. . . and I'm just getting started.

So, 2010 hasn't sucked, stunk, been lousy, repellent, or even disgusting. Oh, it hurt! But it's been a good year. Among other things, God's asked me to depend on Him more and more. He's provided ample opportunities to do just that. He's reminded me that my wife is awesome and deeply committed to Him and to me. He's shown me just how wonderful and caring my children are. He's given me a new daughter-in-law who is amazing. He's opened my eyes to the complexities and wonders of the human body, how He's made it, and how He's made it to heal. He's shown me that our staff here at CPYU is willing, able, gifted, and competent to carry the ball. He's reminded me that I'm not indispensable. He's given me time to learn how to do Sudoku puzzles (had to throw that in!). He's shown me what friendship looks like through a network of friends who have prayed and given beyond what I deserve. I could go on and on. Maybe it's been my best year ever.

There's a small group of people I've been praying for who like me, experienced what doctors call "multiple traumas" during 2010. Gary Parrett is a friend who was in a bus that fell 30 feet off an overpass in Seoul, Korea. He just came home after six months in a hospital. Terrie Long is my buddy Tic's wife, and just a couple of weeks ago she flipped her car while driving on California's wet roads. She's been through two spine surgeries since then and is still in the hospital. Wes Evans is a 19-year-old son of a youth pastor who skied headfirst into a tree back in November. His difficult journey through rehab is only beginning in a Denver hospital. And Mitch Blackburn is the brother-in-law of a college friend. Mitch and I have exchanged messages as he is weeks into rehab from injuries that far-exceeded my own after getting thrown from a boat into a channel marker. Besides sharing various degrees of trauma in 2010, all of us share a common faith in our maker. So far, it's been amazing for me to sit back, listen, and be ministered to as each of these stories unfolds to the Glory of God. I know that when all is said and done, these folks will have some interesting stories to tell about what God has done in their lives during 2010.

"I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them." (Psalm 34:4-7).

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I Resolve. . . .

I've probably blabbered on and on about this before. . . but I don't really understand all the hype over celebrating the New Year. I think my worldview forces me to question why we get so excited about saying "goodbye" to the old, while looking with great anticipation towards the new. The reason for this is that we were just doing this a year ago, weren't we? And weren't we looking with great anticipation and expectation towards the 365 days that we're now happily bidding "adieu"?

I suppose it's that innate sense common to all humanity that something is deeply wrong with the world and the expectation that in days ahead, it will be fixed. It's that longing for ultimate redemption. And when that ultimate redemption isn't experienced through the endless parade of "redeemers" we embrace for naught. . . well. . . we wind up looking forward to next year.

For me, the shift to a new calendar (Lighthouses this year!)is more about wondering. I tend to ask questions regarding what surprises the Lord might have in store for me in the coming year. It's the knowledge that His sovereign plan will most likely include a mix of what we humanly call "good" and "bad," which in the scheme of God's grand design is all ultimately used for good. . . yes, even the hurt, pain, brokenness, and suffering. Last year I wondered about these things. The answers to my twelve-month-ago wondering lie in a variety of things, including the ongoing reminders of a sore shoulder and some still-messed-up ribs. The answers are also found in some amazing lessons learned and what I hope is a deeper and more mature faith that has me yielding more and more to Christ and His Kingdom. . . I hope. It's all good because in hindsight I see that I'd be losing alot of good stuff if I were to trade in the bad stuff.

This year I've been prompted to try something new as the New Year approaches. In my experience, most resolutions made by myself and others tend to be negative. In other words, they start with things like "This year I will stop. . . " or "This year I won't. . . " That's not necessarily a bad thing. But this year I've decided to be more positive and consider what pursuits and endeavors I might embark upon for the 365 days that follow the stroke of midnight tomorrow night. I've decided to work for the next twelve months on filling two voids.

First, there's a personal issue. God seems to have been pounding away at me for the last couple of years on the incomplete nature of my faith, particularly in relation to my understanding and practice of His heart for justice and the poor. Our trip to Africa with Compassion International was a great catalyst. It's changed the way I see the world - both near and far - and the way that I see the Scriptures. I realize it's all for naught unless it changes the way I live. So, I've decided to start the practice of starting each year with a new statement. . . "This year I will. . . " The sentence will be completed with a topic or theme that I will study, read about, pursue. So, this year - 2011 - I will embark on a focused quest to understand more about the heart of God when it comes to justice and the poor. Can you recommend any good books I should read?

Second, there's a professional void that needs to be filled. We've been making scattershot attempts at filling the void here at CPYU, but it's about to get more focused. I want to be more organized, succinct, and helpful at sharing what we know about kids and digital media with parents, youth workers, pastors, educators, and kids themselves. I'm afraid we as followers of Christ have jumped on the train without taking the time to consider the safest and most God-glorifying ways to go for the ride through this brave new world. I'll let you know more as this develops.

What about you? I'd love to hear what God is provoking you to do this coming year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Good, Good News! . . . .

Last summer, I spent some time blogging updates and prayer requests for a friend who had been in a horrific accident. Dr. Gary Parrett, a professor at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, was in a bus that fell off an overpass while he was teaching in South Korea. Half of the people on the bus died. Gary was in very bad shape in a Seoul Hospital. Gary's family faithfully posted updates on Gary's condition on the Caring Bridge site over the next few weeks. Eventually, Gary was flown back to the U.S. via air ambulance to the Spaulding Rehab Hospital in Boston, where he's been for the last several months.

It's been a long and difficult road for Gary. Still, in the midst of the pain and heartache, every communication has been a testimony to God's grace and glory. His wife Holly and daughter Alisa have ministered to me and many others through their regular postings and updates. The story is rather miraculous. That's why I want to pass on the latest post on Gary's miracle. Here it is. . . and I'm looking forward to visiting with Gary at his home sometime during January. I've also posted a picture of Gary and his family. . . . he looks awesome! Thanks to all of you who have been praying for Gary.

For a long time, we had been hoping that Gary would be out of the hospital in time for Christmas, but recently it looked like we would only be able to have him at home for a couple days around the holiday before having to return to Spaulding. In a quick turn of events, though, we were able to get the ball rolling on his discharge and it turns out that he will be coming home for good, Lord willing, on the morning of Christmas eve! It's been a bit of a whirlwind with the quick decision, upcoming holidays, and wintry weather, but the hospital staff has been working in order to make sure that this Friday's discharge can happen. Gary's attending physician, Dr. Chae (who has been a continual blessing to all of us), has even volunteered to drive him home from the hospital.

We are very excited to go home and be together, but we are also scared about all the unknowns and whether or not we will be able to transition well. Tonight, all three of us are staying at the functional living apartment in the hospital to see how we will do without help from the nursing or medical staff. There will be a lot of changes to deal with, including home care and therapy. The home therapy that we are trying to set up for Gary will not be available until mid-January, so until then, Gary will be commuting back to Spaulding three times a week to receive outpatient therapy. Gary will have somebody to drive him back and forth from Boston, paid for by insurance.

Please pray with us as we transition to the house. This is the beginning of a new phase in Gary's recovery process, and it is by no means the end of the journey. Even so, this is a moment that we have dreamed and prayed about, but we had often despaired, doubting that it could actually happen so soon. We are so thankful for God's provision and, although we are apprehensive about the changes that are in store, we are so thankful for this Christmas blessing of being able to bring Gary home.

Much love from the Parrett family in this Christmas season! We pray that God will pour out his richest blessings upon you and yours through the rest of this year and the coming new one!

Friday, December 24, 2010

This Is Why He Came. . .

This morning I saw a short feature on the year in pictures that was posted by the folks at The Today Show. A handful of the photos were what you might call inspiring and heartwarming. But the overwhelming majority captured images of hurt, brokenness, suffering, and pain. When you look at these photos there's no denying that our world is horribly messed up and desperately in need of repair. We look at the images, shake our heads, and know that things are not the way they are supposed to be. I grabbed a few of them and posted them here. . . .

But we don't have to be locked in hopelessness and despair. Jesus Christ came into the world to undo what we have done and cannot undo by ourselves. He came to redeem all things and make all things new. That includes the crowning point of His creation. . . broken humanity.

As you ponder these images from 2010, think about these words from the Scriptures. First, the words Jesus spoke at the outset of his earthly ministry:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18&19).

And then, the words of great hope that we find in John 1:12:

"To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God"

This is why he came.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sad, True, and Very Funny. . . Oh Those Extended Adolescents. . .

So a friend who works on a university campus sent us this video featuring some avatars "acting out" how a growing number of young adults act out in real life. . . especially when they are being held accountable for their actions. The video captures how the perfect storm of today's cultural forces (anti-authoritarianism, moral relativism, party-culture, narcissism, over-indulgent parenting, etc)combine in the life of young adults to yield a return of immaturity of epic proportions.

The video is absolutely ridiculous. . . yet absolutely true. Like a great SNL skit, this one throws a window on ourselves that we need to not only be looking through, but talking about.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Retail At Its Best. . . .

Yesterday I indulged my annual pre-Christmas tradition of trekking from here in Etown down to Dallastown and the Hearts and Minds bookstore owned by my old friend Byron Borger. It's a place I find very hard to describe. It's a place you have to experience to understand.

I love books and I value reading. . . especially reading widely. That's why my office is now getting close to overflowing with books. The shelves were filled years ago. Now there are piles of books and piles of boxes of books all over the place. Why am I telling you this? Because Hearts and Minds is a place run by people who love books. . . and it looks a lot like my office.

The store is attached to Byron and Beth's house on a residential street. Parking isn't easy if the little four space lot at the rear of the store is full. But that never seems to keep a steady flow of dedicated customers away. They come because Byron and his staff live out an amazing vision described on their website as this. . . What distinguishes us most is our enthusiasm for the development of a uniquely Christian worldview where Christ’s Lordship is honored and lived out in relevant ways in the midst of our highly secularized, post-modern culture. We offer quality books for the sake of faithful Christian living. We serve business folk, scientists, artists, college students, moms, dads (and kids!), pastors, poets and politicos. We believe Biblical faith leads to "thinking Christianly" about every area of life. Hearts and Minds is not your mother's Christian bookstore!

But here's the best part. . . Byron and his staff love Jesus, they love thinking Christianly about all of life, they love books, and they love people. I think that's the way it's supposed to be. Every single person who walks through the door gets special attention. Yesterday, while I was looking through a pile of books that sat on the floor in front of the "biography" section of the store, an older gentleman came through the door in search of a specific type of Christmas gift for his wife. He was looking for - as he described it - a book that tells people about places in the Bible. Byron then led this dear, sweet, little old man into a part of the store where there are piles and shelves full of Bible reference books. With his trade-marked passion and pastoral tone, Byron then explained to the man what he was looking for - a Bible Atlas, along with a descriptor of several options and some great recommendations. I spend alot of time in bookstores, and I never see that happen anywhere else. Byron then offered to have the book wrapped. As the man was leaving with his find in hand, Byron told him that if it wasn't what his wife wanted, just bring it on back! It was beautiful. I think I got one more glimpse of what the bookstore in Heaven is going to be like.

It's this kind of knowledge, passion, and service that has gained Byron and his store great respect far beyond central Pennsylvania. Many of you have probably run into Byron and his famous book tables at conferences all around the country. Authors, researchers, publishers, and customers from around the world keep the phone lines at Hearts and Minds busy all day. People who have questions that start with things like "I'm looking for a book that. . . " or "What is the best book on. . . " go first to Byron. . . and for good reason.

Those of you who have never heard of Hearts and Minds should check out the store's website, paying special attention to Byron's "Booknotes Blog," reviews, and "recent site updates." Since Christmas is only a week away, Byron's got some amazing posts on a variety of gift ideas ranging from academic to children's books. Here's a little hint - pour yourself a cup of coffee before going to Byron's blog. It's not a quick read. Neither is it boring! Byron's personal enthusiasm for all things books (you understand what I'm talkng about if you know Byron) oozes over into his blogs and reviews. He will tell you about books you never imagined even existed. That's why I make the trek to the store. I also know that Byron's got some nice discounts going for his blog readers just in time for Christmas.

I'll take Hearts and Minds over the mall any day!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Girls Behaving Badly. . . .

What they see is who they become. That little seven-word sentence just might capture the realities of adolescent identity formation in today's world. Think about it. . . kids are looking for guidance and direction as they experience the powerful push and pull of the wrestling match that's all part of forming their definition of themselves and how they choose to present themselves to the world. And because we all know that example is one of the most powerful educators, it makes sense - sadly - that in today's media-saturated world kids are most likely to be most influenced by what they see and hear in the media. It's not rocket science. Which is why many of us who are older often find ourselves uttering things like "I can't believe that girl's dressed like that!!"

This week, the Parents Television Council (PTC) released a report entitled "Sexualized Teen Girls: Tinseltown's New Target." The study looks at the sexualization of female teenagers in prime-time television. The report's Executive Summary recalls a highly publicized 2007 report from the American Psychological Association that I referenced when it first came out. That report said that the sexualization of girls in the media both reflects and shapes current attitudes. It's both cause and effect.

Now, the PTC has conducted an analysis of all scripted programs within the Neilsen ranking of the top 25 prime-time shows among viewers ages 12 to 17 during the 2009-2010 season. According to the PTC, here are the main findings:

• Underage female characters are shown participating in a higher percentage of sexual depictions compared to adults (47% and 29% respectively).
• Only 5% of the underage female characters communicated any form of dislike for being sexualized (excluding scenes depicting healthy sexuality).
• Out of all the sexualized female characters depicted in the underage and young adult category for the entire database, 86% were presented as only being of high school age.
• Seventy-five percent of shows that included sexualized underage female characters were shows that did not have an “S” descriptor to warn parents about the sexual content.
• Based upon a definition established by the American Psychological Association of “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” sexuality, the study findings show that 93% of the sexual incidents involving underage female characters occurred within a context that qualified as “unhealthy.”
• The data revealed that 98% of the sexual incidents involving underage female characters occurred outside of any form of a committed relationship.
• The data show that 73% of the underage sexualized incidents were presented in a humorous manner or as a punch line to a joke.

And so our kids watch. . . learn. . . and become. Now is the time for parents, youth workers, educators, and the church to join together to save our kids from this kind of stuff. . . and even themselves. It's time to talk about finding our identity as one made in the image of God, about finding our identity in Christ, and about living a Biblical sexual ethic that leads to deep and lasting freedom. It's about re-shaping the answer to the question, "What in the world are we doing to our kids?!?"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

With Gratitude to the Doctor. . . .

Yesterday I received word that Dr. Roger Nicole died on Saturday afternoon. I had the privilege of having Dr. Nicole as one of my theology professors at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary back in the early 1980s. He was a fascinating and brilliant man who loved the Lord with great enthusiasm, loved God's Word, loved teaching, and loved his students. In fact, he oozed all those loves. Dr. Nicole brought theology to life for me. When he died, he was 95 years old and still sharp as a tack. Along with my great memories of his teaching in the classroom, there are two other memories of Dr. Nicole that I will never forget.

There was the first time I ever met him. It was early March of 1981 and I was doing campus ministry with the Coalition for Christian Outreach. Our annual Jubilee Conference was going on in Pittsburgh. Like many other CCO staffers, I had been asked to host one of the Jubilee speakers for the weekend. I had requested Dr. Nicole as I had heard so much about this wonderful man. On Saturday, Dr. Nicole and I went with my wife-to-be, Lisa, to have lunch in a small deli in Pittsburgh. While we were sitting and talking, the TV up in the corner reported that Chet Bitterman, a Wycliffe missionary who had been kidnapped weeks before in Columbia, had been found dead. Our conversation stopped as we stared at the television. I remember feeling a huge hole in my gut at hearing the news. In the midst of our silence, Dr. Nicole spoke up with that deep voice of his that was marked by his French-accent. He looked at us and said, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church." As a young man, I had never heard anyone say that before. I now know that those words were not original to Dr. Nicole, nor did he ever claim that they were. He was simply doing what he had used his words to do his entire life. . . tell the truth. I remember sensing great hope in those words as the Bitterman story was now couched for me in the bigger picture of the sovereignty of God. That moment left an enduring impression on me.

When I arrived on Gordon-Conwell's campus a little over a year later, I was thrilled to be able to plug into classes with Dr. Nicole. In fact, it was from one of his classes that I was plucked by a security guard to meet my wife at the doctor's office as she had gone into labor with our first child. Near the end of one semester, I had handed in a theology paper that I had labored on for quite some time. Later that night, I was at home reading my copy of the paper when I realized that I had accidentally flipped a couple of footnotes around into the wrong order. I went to my friend Mark Dever, who was Dr. Nicole's Byington Teaching Fellow at the time, to see if I could get the paper back to make the correction. Mark and I wandered into Dr. Nicole's corner office in the basement of the library. . . an office that I remember was stacked and cluttered with all sorts of books, papers, etc. . . the sign of a brilliant mind, I guess. The room was dark. We walked over to Dr. Nicole's desk to find my paper in a large stack, when we were startled by a loud noise behind us. We looked at each other and laughed. There on the couch, sound asleep and snoring, was Dr. Nicole taking an afternoon nap. He was in such a deep sleep that we could have been elephants and he would have never woken up. That experience made a man who was already human to me that much more human.

I haven't seen Dr. Nicole for years. But the words penned by Don Sweeting, President of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, in a blog post about his visit with Dr. Nicole just a few weeks ago, are not at all surprising. . . .

"Dr. Nicole spoke of his own retrenchment, not with deep complaint, but with a proper sense of realism and lament that comes from any loss. There was melancholy in his voice as he reminisced about days gone by and noted what he no longer had. But then he paused in the conversation. And with all the vigor of his French accented English emphatically exclaimed—“but I have joy.” And this, he said, could not be taken away! Not only that, but Dr. Nicole clearly understood that his present retrenchment is a season as well.

We ended our visit by opening up the Scriptures and reading together from Psalm 16. That great psalm begin—“Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. . . . I said to the LORD, ‘You are my LORD, apart from you I have no good thing. . . . You have assigned me my portion and my cup. . . . Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices.’”

It was with particular eagerness that Dr. Nicole recited from memory as I read the last part of the psalm. “My body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. . . . You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Seeing beyond our seasons of accumulation and retrenchment, Dr. Nicole clearly had his eye on yet another season, which for him, seemed just around the corner."

Dr. Nicole lived well and died well. I hope I can do the same.

For those who might enjoy hearing Dr. Nicole teach on the cross, click here

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dangerous. . . .

Last Friday I spent a chunk of the day sitting in the waiting room at a local doctor's office. I had taken a family member to the gastroenterologist for a check-up that included a preventive procedure. Knowing I'd be sitting in that waiting room for quite some time, I took along a new book by Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor:Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus. Throughout the morning, a slew of people came and went, something I became consciously aware of as I read the chapter titled "Paying Attention to Paying Attention."

Here I was, reading about Jesus's heart for justice and the poor, and I decided to follow the chapter title's instructions by paying a little more attention to my immediate surroundings in light of the world's great need. These days, when I think of the poor, I think first about 14-year-old Ibrahim, our Compassion child who lives in the Mathare slum in Nairobi. I've smelled, touched, heard, seen, and tasted where Ibrahim lives. . . if only for a few hours. Ibrahim, however, has the poverty of the place filling his young senses 24/7.

And so my mind wandered back and forth between Ibrahim's Mathare and the place where I sat. It was cold and rainy in my part of the world. But I sat warm and dry in a nice soft waiting room chair. I thought about the fact that I was there because I had the ability to travel by car, I had the luxury of insurance coverage that paid for a very expensive preventive procedure, and I had the time to give because I wasn't constantly consumed with securing my next bite of food or bucket of water to sustain my family. Across from me sat a water cooler filled with clean water. . . available at the push of a button. On the table in front of me sat a variety of magazines, including this year's edition of the Sears Wishbook. . . a catalog filled from cover to cover with the latest toys. As I listened to the many discussions taking place in the room, I was struck by what people were talking about. One man was telling his wife about his need for a new pair of bowling shoes. His old ones were worn out. A teenager complained to her mother about the fact that she had already gone 9 hours without food in preparation for her procedure. A pair of women sitting behind were commenting on the raspberry cheesecake and German chocolate cakes pictured in a magazine. Another family talked about their plans to go out and get ice cream once dad was done with his procedure.

I was blown away by what I was hearing as I held that book on justice in my hands. It was all normal everyday stuff. In fact, it was the stuff of my own normal everyday conversations.

And then I thought. . . I really do have a lot. Reality is, 98 percent of the people in the world are worse off than me. . . . something I quickly forget in my quest to pay attention to meeting the needs of me, myself, and I. That reality means that I've got some God-given responsibilities.

And so I continue to wrestle with some of these important questions. I wonder where it will lead. Wherever it leads, I know that if God is in it, the destination is going to be a pretty great place. I'm learning that the world beyond my OK world isn't as OK as I'd like to think. I'm learning that living in my OK world means that there's some divine responsibility on me regarding how I relate to those who have less, little, or nothing.

I'm looking forward to learning more about seeing the world through the eyes of Jesus.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

John Lennon And The Musical Career I Could Have Had. . .

It was 30 years ago today that Mark David Chapman murdered John Lennon. Ironically, it was sportscaster Howard Cosell who broke the story on Monday Night Football while standing next to Dandy Don Meredith - who died earlier this week - in the MNF broadcast booth. The little clip of Cosell's delivery of the news lets those of you who weren't around back then know just how big this news was. . . .

Lennon's death was one of those events that served as a marker during my life's early years. As with most kids, many of my life's markers were pop culture events, more proof that pop culture serves some powerful roles in our lives. I was only seven-years-old when the Beatles made it big. . . but I remember it. When they came to America for the first time in early 1964, we talked about it in school and in our neighborhood. It was huge. And I will never forget the morning that I was standing at the school bus stop a block from our home when John King showed up and told us that the Beatles had broken up. It was appropriate that John was the bearer of the shocking news as he and his younger brother both wore their hair like the Beatles, a fitting look for a couple of guys from the neighborhood who already had musical talent and a pretty good little band.

I wrote about John Lennon, his wife Yoko Ono, and markers in my book Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture. The strange, eccentric, and avant-garde duo left quite an impression on my young mind. In hindsight, their unusual antics and art marked the beginning of postmodernism's obvious influence on pop culture. In 1968, the Rock & Roll Circus concert film was released. It featured some outrageous footage of Ono performing in an all-star band. Her performance included some shrill screaming and rolling around in a black sack. Interesting, or at the very least, weird. Then there was the week's worth of broadcasts of The Mike Douglas Show featuring Lennon and Ono as cohosts.

Thanks to YouTube, this morning I was able to rewind back to that week and found a great little clip of Chuck Berry and John Lennon performing Berry's famous song "Maybelline." It was a great moment with two icons of Rock & Roll sharing the stage. And then comes Ono. . . . . It's a clip you need to watch to not only get a sense of the times, but to get a good laugh.

As I watched, I realized that my opportunity to have a moment in rock and roll history had passed and I had missed it. Here, all along I've been thinking that I lacked the talent to make it in the music industry. But in this little clip, Ono proves my thinking wrong. After all, I can keep time with my hand on a drum, and I'm certainly at least OK when it comes to yacking away like a monkey.

Anybody got an opening in their band for a 54-year-old one-handed bongo drummer who can make funny noises????

Monday, December 6, 2010

100,000. . . and 1

The other day I received a letter in the mail that was both encouraging and discouraging. The letter came to our home from our friends at Compassion International. It was an unapologetic "ask" for gifts towards Compassion's Unsponsored Children's Fund. The encouraging part is that Compassion is standing ready with over 100,000 unsponsored children in need of sponsors. I love Compassion. The discouraging part is that while Compassion stands ready, over 100,000 kids are still in need of sponsors. I'm committed to doing whatever I can to "connect the dots" between a potential sponsor and an unsponsored child. You can click on the Compassion banner ad at the left of this blog if you believe God is calling you to become a Compassion Child Sponsor.

But I would be remiss if I stopped there. This past weekend Lisa and I had the privilege of traveling to Toronto to spend time with our Canadian friends at the Canadian Youth Workers Convention. We had a blast doing ministry and being ministered to. One of the absolute highlights was meeting a young man who had set up a modest booth in the convention exhibit hall. Jared Henriques is 18-years-old. He was selling some T-shirts he had designed. . . some pretty cool T-shirts I might add. I asked Jared about his little company - Pocket Change Apparel - and he went to on to explain to me that all - that's right, ALL - the proceeds from the sales of his T-shirts go to support Compassion's Unsponsored Children's fund. 18-years-old. I was blown away. Jared's stated goal for Pocket Change Apparel is to "share love, transform lives, and foster generosity."

This morning as I unpacked my things I found Jared's card. As I thought about Jared I was reminded of the words God spoke to his people through the prophet Amos. . . "Let justice roll on like a river. . . "

Thanks Jared, for being 1 who's spurring the rest of us on to make a difference in the lives of 100,000!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Death of Me, Myself, and I. . . .

Bad news for people who are all about having all eyes on them. According to this morning's paper, the psychiatric community has decided to stop paying attention. It seems that Narcissistic Personality Disorder has been dropped as a diagnosis from the latest edition of the DSM - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Added to the DSM thirty years ago, the disorder is defined as "a pattern of traits and behaviours which signify infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one's gratification, dominance and ambition."

Fact is, we do apply the labels "syndrome" and "disorder" in ways that extend the legitimate use of those words so that we can blame others or environment for our own sin and poor choices. So maybe it's a good thing the diagnosis has been tanked. But I'm led to wonder if maybe this Narcissism stuff is so widespread, that it's now normal to be self-centered. . . so normal in fact that the next addition to the DSM might be something related to other-centeredness. Just a thought.